Lakewood asks for state and federal funding to fight opioid abuse

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LAKEWOOD, Ohio - It's embarrassing to admit you have an addiction problem. It can be even more embarrassing to ask for help, but that's exactly what Lakewood is doing.

City council members introduced a resolution declaring the amount of heroin and opioid overdose deaths in Cuyahoga County a public health emergency. City leaders are requesting state and federal funding to fight the epidemic.

"We have a high rate of overdoses unfortunately...a high rate of fatalities and we have to act," said Councilman John Litten.

According to the city's resolution, in 2016 28 people died of heroin. The police and fire department responded to 251 overdose calls. The resolution states that Lakewood has dedicated more resources toward combating the epidemic than other suburbs but their efforts have not abated the crisis. So what will? Litten says addition funding for opioid prevention and treatment programs.

"Rehabilitation beds? We could use probably at least 100 more beds in the city," said Litten.

Officials argue the funding could be the springboard they need to take back their city from drugs. Katie Kurtz, the clinical manager with the city's department of human services, echoes that sentiment. She's seen the deadly addiction grow throughout the county.

"It's unusual to sit in a Cuyahoga County opiate task force meeting that went from 12 people to over 90," said Kurtz.

Fox 8 informed Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine about Lakewood's problem. He praised city officials for acknowledging there is a heroin issue.

"Communities that are making progress are ones that have never once said we have no problem because every community has a problem," said DeWine.

The Attorney General says he is not aware if his office has the funding to give in this instance but they can provide people to assist Lakewood. He vowed his office would reach out to Lakewood city leaders and work to determine how they can be of assistance.